Homeland has awfully long days. Only three of our hours longer, but when you’re tired it can seem forever until bedtime! Today was no exception, even though it was shortened by our time-zone change.
Harshan’s father picked us up at the airport. At first, I was glad, because I figured that the hassles of the trip were over and that I would soon be taking a nap; but I was wrong. Mr. Nagala insisted on giving me an auto tour of the city on the way home. After all, he said, it is the noon-time traffic lull!
If you wanted to compare Halakan with a single Human country, you couldn’t do it. Halakan is like Babylon, in that it was an ancient empire that founded the basic sciences of mathematics and astronomy, and that invented the thermometer, the measuring system, the calendar, the numbering system, and the numerals used everywhere on Homeland today. But Babylon is dead, and Halakan is still very much alive. It is like Greece, in that its glory is mainly in the past and its language is interesting to the scholars of the past. It is like Japan in its architecture and industriousness. Halakan, as a nation, is not so much a has-been as a could-be-again. It definitely does not have the feel of tidiness and cleanliness that you find in Thorgelfayne.
So you can imagine the monuments! Imagine a nation with a history stretching more than ten thousand years and the monuments it must have! With Harshan acting (again) as interpreter, Mr. Nagala told me that Halakan’s history is so rich, that many major archaeological finds were made by suburbanites digging holes to plant bushes. I suppressed a yawn, but I professed interest and amazement.
I was so glad when the tour came to an end, and we found ourselves parked in front of the Nagala house. If circumstances had been different, I suppose that I would have found this auto tour very interesting, but I just wanted to take a little nap and clean up a bit. As soon as we arrived, I did just that.
Harshan’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. Nagala) are very congenial people. Despite the regrettable language barrier, I felt very much at home.
One thing did puzzle me, however. In Thorgelfayne, everyone has a unique surname. Lanni Hargelstope and Harna Farsino had different last names, even though they were married, and if they have children, no two members of the family will have the same last name. So I was intrigued that Harshan and his parents (he is an only child) all have the same last name.
I asked Harshan about this during dinner.
“These things vary from country to country,” he began. “Halakanian customs are quite different from Thorgelfaynese customs.”
So I asked him if a woman adopts her husband’s name when they are married. I thought it was an innocent question, but Harshan got a kick out of it. He had to translate it for his parents. They laughed and asked Harshan a few questions.
Harshan told me that he had to explain the Earth custom to his parents.
“In Halakan, when two people marry, they forsake the old and commit to the new,” he said quietly. He was looking straight into my eyes. He was so close, I thought our noses would touch. I like it when he talks to me like this. “In marriage, the old surnames are cast aside, and one new name takes their place.”
“That’s lovely,” I said, entranced.
“If you were a Halakanian woman, and if I were to marry you, you would abandon your name of ‘Franklin’ and I would abandon my name of ‘Nagala’ and we would choose a new name for us both.” His eyes were hypnotizing me, and I didn’t mind a bit.
Harshan looked away for a moment to pass a condiment to his mother.
“Would you like to choose a name with me?” he asked abruptly.
I started to explain that I could hardly be expected to choose a Halakanian name since I did not speak the language, but then I realized with a start what he meant. He wanted to marry me!
Oh drat! Mr. Nagala’s blowing the horn again! Time to leave for the theater. I have to try and be a gracious guest and not hold everybody up! I can’t finish this letter now, so I’ll just stuff it in the envelope and mail it on the way.
I’ll write again soon!
Yours in Thorgel Bond,